Half-term is right around the corner, with many schools in the UAE set to enjoy the first break of the year. For the majority of educational establishments it runs from next Monday to Friday, but can vary.
And with Covid-19 restrictions having been lifted in many destinations around the world, including an easing of regulations in the UAE, perhaps the time is right to venture overseas.
Embrace the bustling streets of Istanbul, easily reached in less than five hours from the UAE, or head for the tropical shorelines of Zanzibar or Nepal's adventure-filled mountains. These last-minute getaways are available to book now, and there’s something for every budget.
1. A beach escape in Zanzibar
The tropical shores of Zanzibar await this month for travellers seeking a beachside escape. Book with flydubai holidays for a five-and-a-half-hour flight to the Tanzanian island to check in at the Nungwi Inn Beach Cottages. Nestled right on the shoreline, the resort offers 25 air-conditioned cottages with whitewashed walls and bright blue roofs, the ideal destination from where to enjoy island life. For those who prefer to be in a different part of the island or are seeking something more pocket-friendly or with additional luxury options, there are plenty of other accommodation options also available.
October is a great time to go to Zanzibar as it sits right in the middle of the island's two rainy seasons, meaning it is ideal for sun-seekers. Don’t forget to stop in Stone Town, where the ancient winding alleys are a well-preserved example of a Swahili coastal trading town and a place to easily lose yourself in hundreds of years of history. For ocean exploration, take a day trip to Chumbe Island Coral Park, off the coast of the capital. This non-profit private nature reserve has a coral reef sanctuary and a forest reserve and is home to some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in East Africa.
From Dh3,743 per person for four nights, including breakfast, flights and taxes; www.holidays.flydubai.com
2. Exploration in Istanbul, the city of four empires
East meets West in Turkey’s Istanbul where delicious food, ancient markets and sprawling streets combine. History buffs can enjoy new wonders around every corner, thanks to the city’s history as the capital of four major empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. The world's only megacity straddling two continents, Istanbul is a thriving metropolis and in October, the city typically basks in sunny days, with cooler evening climes.
Fly with Etihad from Abu Dhabi this half-term for a flight time of just under five hours. Check in at the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel in the middle of the Sultanahmet district where the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar and Taksim Square are all within walking distance.
Dh4,759 per person for four nights, including breakfast, flights and taxes; book.etihadholidays.com
3. Amazing adventures in Nepal
Travellers who want a few days of action-packed adventure, coupled with plenty of time to unwind, might consider a half-term escape to Nepal. TrekkUp’s Rocks'n Yoga trip departs Dubai this Saturday, reaching Kathmandu in four and a half hours.
The trip takes in six days of exploration in beautiful Nepal with activities including river rafting from Charaudi, canyoning in Lwang Ghalel and paragliding at Sarangkot on the radar. Hiking, yoga, meditation and a boating excursion on Pokhara’s most picturesque lake are also included. Wrap things up with an exploration of Nepal’s bustling capital by indulging in a traditional Nepalese meal, exploring myriad Unesco World Heritage sites and sample the city's bustling nightlife.
Dh3,650 per person, including activities and accommodation. Flights need to be arranged separately for last-minute bookings and start from Dh2,700; www.meetup.com
4. A blowout luxury stay in the Maldives
For a seriously luxurious escape, how about fusing the paradisiacal islands of the Maldives with classic Italian hospitality. Baglioni Resort Maldives on Maagau island in the Dhaalu Atoll is a seaplane ride away from Male’s Velana International Airport, reachable via a four-hour flight from Dubai.
Villa accommodation on the beach offers indoor-outdoor living and space for up to six people. The family-friendly resort has plenty to keep children entertained, including culture workshops where they can learn the Maldivian dance Boduberu, plus engage in arts, crafts and open-air beach games. The Baglioni Spa has also developed a range of massages dedicated for children and using all-natural ingredients.
Adults can enjoy their own treatments at the spa, where there’s also a yoga pavilion and fitness area. And for those that want to dive into the deep blue, the Maagau Dive Centre offers scuba, snorkelling, sunset cruises, dolphin watching and watersports.
The resort’s family getaway offer includes four nights for four people, with a complimentary dolphin or sunset cruise, non-motorised watersports and an introductory diving session. Two children under 12 stay and eat for free, and there’s a complimentary couple's massage plus 10 per cent off on spa treatments and a la carte menus. Guests will also get free early check-in and late checkout.
Dh35,256 on a half-board basis for two adults and two children. Direct flights start from Dh2,288 with Wizz Air Abu Dhabi or from Dh4,361 with Emirates, seaplane transfers cost an additional $1,600 for a family of four; www.baglionihotels.com
5. A budget break in Baku
Just more than three hours' flight time from the UAE, the capital of Azerbaijan is a good choice for anyone seeking an affordable half-term holiday. Book with Holiday Factory, and fly from either Dubai or Sharjah to the country's capital, where Unesco-listed sites, amazing architecture and luxury shopping await.
Famed for its impressive Flame Towers and 6th-century Old City, Baku also has a thriving cafe culture, bustling markets and is a great jumping-off point for day trips around the country. Staying at the five-star Hyatt Regency Baku, one of the best hotels in the city, guests can expect well-appointed rooms with pool, garden or city views, plus humongous bathtubs. There’s a swimming pool, tennis courts, squash courts and a steam bath and sauna on-site, and the hotel is located near Neftchilar Avenue and Nizami Street, the best spots in the city for shopping and entertainment. Day trip options include several biking and hiking trails, Qobustan's mud volcanoes and Ateshgah temple, famed for its ever-burning flame.
From Dh2,499 per person for three nights, including breakfast, flights, taxes and airport transfers; www.holiday-factory.com
6. Half-term in bustling Bangkok
A long-time favourite with holidaymakers, Thailand never fails to impress and the capital has something for everyone. Famed for its fantastic street food, cultural attractions and colourful markets, Bangkok is reachable via a six-and-a-half-hour flight from Abu Dhabi.
Capital Travel has a trip to Krung Thep that's still bookable for this half-term. It coincides with the end of Thailand’s rainy season and the time when summer humidity finally begins to subside. While there’s still likely to be a few downpours at this time of year, the heavy showers usually only last for a few hours in the afternoon.
Staying at the four-star Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit, travellers can enjoy the area’s nightlife, restaurants, malls and markets. Sukhumvit Road is one of the longest streets in the world, so there’s plenty to see and do. And of course, there's plenty of time to explore farther afield where you can take in Bangkok’s must-do’s such as Wat Phra Chetuphon — the temple with the famed reclining Buddha; Pak Khlong Talat flower market and a boat tour along the Chao Phraya River.
From Dh3,699 including flights, accommodation and airport transfers. Other accommodation options are available; www.capitaltravel.ae
7. An affordable autumn escape to Georgia
Fancy three days of cooler climes and autumnal colours without spending a fortune? Then consider a three-night escape to Georgia. Flying from Sharjah on October 20, a speedy three-hour flight to Tbilisi will have travellers check-in at the Hotel Magnolia, which is within walking distance of Freedom Square. The trip will keep everyone busy with plenty of sightseeing on the itinerary such as a visit to Mtskheta — a Unesco heritage-listed town that’s known for its historical buildings, and a half-day excursion to Old Tbilisi where the Metekhi Church, the Bridge of Peace and age-old sulphur baths await.
Head into the hills to Gudauri ski resort, and go visit Ananuri Castle where you can stop for panoramic views over the blue waters of the Zhinvali Reservoir, a man-made lake on the Georgian Military Highway. There’s also a day trip to the eastern part of the country where you can explore the historical treasures of Kakheti, and an optional exploration to Uplistsikhe Cave Town — one of the oldest urban settlements in the country.
From Dh1,899 per person, including flights, accommodation, airport transfers and sightseeing; houseoftours.com
8. Holiday Swiss-style at Five Zurich
Switzerland's largest city is home to the first Five Hotel in Europe and Emirates Holidays is offering half-term escapes to the Zurich outpost.
The famous party hotel from Dubai has a sleek sister hotel on the outskirts of Switzerland's financial metropolis and it's a great option for anyone seeking a holiday that blends great food, city life and fresh October air.
Five Zurich is all about offering guests a getaway experience and travellers checking in can look forward to luxury accommodation with views towards the city, first-rate restaurants and a fantastic underground spa. For those who want to stay up, The Penthouse is the place to go. As well as being a buzzy, slick Japanese restaurant, it's also where the DJ spins tracks every night.
Discreetly tucked away next door is the neon-lined Bathroom Bar and a Saturday night clubbing spot, but unlike its Dubai counterpart, this hotel is entirely family-friendly and also offers a place where people can simply unwind, take a walk in the surrounding green spaces and enjoy the indoor swimming pool that overlooks a natural waterfall.
Its location, only 15 minutes from Zurich's city centre, means there's plenty to see and do away from the hotel too. Dominating the skyline is the Grossmunster Church, well worth a visit, as are the Kunsthaus art gallery and Swiss National Museum. Take a stroll along the River Limmat, adorned with more than a thousand medieval and modern fountains, and stop for some cheese fondue or creamy Swiss chocolate at the myriad cafes, restaurants and bars that line the city's streets.
From Dh4,585 per person, including flights from Dubai and three nights on a room-only basis; www.emiratesholidays.com
9. An all-inclusive family escape to Mauritius
Known for its idyllic beaches, mountains and lush rainforests, Mauritius is one of the Indian Ocean’s best destinations for families. Travellers can enjoy the stunning azure blue waters and pristine shorelines, and there’s still plenty to do as it's easy to drive around the entire island. Book with dnata Travel and take the family to Club Med Resort at La Pointe aux Canonniers for three nights where you’ll stay all-inclusive, so you don’t need to worry what your bill will be when the children ask for yet another ice cream.
Located in the north of Mauritius, the resort offers access to two private beaches, four swimming pools, a lush spa by Cinq Mondes and a beach lounge for unwinding and catching some sunshine. The children's club is open for all children aged 0 to 17, with early years professionals on hand to take care of the littlest ones and daily activities to keep older children entertained. Try waterskiing on the calm Indian Ocean waters, go diving in the coral reef or head out to Mauritius's only 18-hole golf course, just a five-minute drive from the resort.
Dh6,262 per adult, on an all-inclusive basis and including flights; www.dnataTravel.com/offers/club-med